Masatoshi Nei

Temple University


Primary Section: 27, Evolutionary Biology
Secondary Section: 26, Genetics
Membership Type:
Emeritus (elected 1997)

Research Interests

My research has been primarily concerned with the development of statistical methods that are required for analyzing and interpreting molecular data for the study of evolution and population genetics. I have developed various statistical methods for estimating evolutionary distance between two DNA or protein sequences and genetic distance between two populations. In collaboration with my students, I have also developed efficient statistical methods for constructing phylogenetic trees from sequence data as well as from allele frequency data. Currently, I am working on methods for inferring the amino acid sequences of protein in extinct ancestral organisms from present-day data to study the evolutionary change of protein function. I have also analyzed various molecular data using the statistical methods developed to understand the mechanism of evolution. This study has indicated that the evolutionary change of DNA is largely neutral but there are exceptional genes such as MHC genes where positive Darwinian selection enhances genetic polymorphism. Another area of my interest is the study of human evolution at the molecular level and I have shown that Africans are the first group of people who split from the rest of the human populations and Europeans are the next to diverge from the remaining populations.

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